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Douglas Lilburn
Complete Electro-Acoustic Works
(Atoll) 3CD+1DVD

I first heard of the New Zealand composer, Douglas Lilburn, only a month or so ago from an 'Epiphanies' article in the January issue of The Wire by The Dead C's Bruce Russell. My interest was picqued by Russell's description of Lilburn's pioneering works in electronic music, but I was still skeptical when I picked up this 3CD/1DVD set on the NZ label, Atoll. I mean, was Wallace's admiration for Lilburn's music simply the result of inflated kiwi national pride? As it turns out, I needed have worried a whit. This is quite simply a wonderful collection of electronic music from the 60s-70s, free from the spaceman-in-RomperRoom silliness that plagues so much second-rate academic electronic music of the period.

Lilburn was a trained composer, having studied with Ralph Vaughan-Williams of all people, and writing with more traditional instruments in the the 1940s and fifies. He began working with electronics only in the 1960s. As represented here, his work is delicately and deliberately structured and, it seems to me, often rather pastoral. The array of sounds that he uses evoke nothing overtly futuristic (though I suppose that they must have at the time of their composition), but rather the complexity of the natural world. Obviously, since this 3-disc/1-DVD set represents my introduction to his work, I can't speak to how well it fits within his overall work, but I can say it's burning a hole in my disc-player. The DVD, which contains interviews and two four-channel works, is an added treat, providing more insight into this undeservedly obscure composer.

 

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